Posted: June 12th, 2018 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »
Forget the OTAs. We are officially onto the mandatory minicamp. That’s right, participation is no longer an option. You show up or the coaching staff sends raccoon assassins after you. And as we’ve seen with the little guy in Minnesota, there is no hiding from those guys.
The Eagles had perfect attendance so the threat worked pretty well. Okay, so let’s get on to the good stuff, the practice notes. As a reminder, there are no pads and there is basically no contact.
First up is Brandon Lee Gowton. He’s put out the best practice notes of anyone so far this spring. He covers a lot of players, gives good info and keeps it entertaining as well.
Carson Wentz update: Wentz continues to look pretty good. The Eagles have a new quarterback drill where Press Taylor throws tennis balls at the feet of the players and they have to dodge them as if they’re pass rushers. Wentz showed no signs of being hampered during this activity. Later in practice, Wentz participated in some 7-on-7 action. He got picked off by Rodney McLeod in the red zone at one point. Bad read, and he knew it, putting his hands on his helmet in frustration with himself. It didn’t take Ginger Jesus long to bounce back. He fired a throw just past the outstretched finger tips of Ronald Darby and into the arms of a diving Nelson Agholor in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a bullet. Great throw and great catch. When Wentz wasn’t participating in a drill, he was off sprinting on another field or having a catch with Alshon Jeffery.
I love the fact the coaches are making Wentz use his lower body in practice. They could take it easy on him and have Wentz focus on just throwing the ball, but the reality is that the Eagles need Wentz back at a high level. That means he needs to have his footwork and mobility tested as the offseason goes along. You can’t just wait for Training Camp or game-action. You’ve got to work on that. And it is great that Wentz seems so comfortable with the drills and moves so naturally, despite having a knee still on the mend.
Ronald Darby turned in a strong day of practice. The 24-year-old corner notched several pass deflections, including two leaping breakups on deep throws by Nick Foles. The only real time I saw him get beat today is when he got matched up on Zach Ertz. He contested the throw as much as he could but Ertz was just too big. Outside of that, Darby had an impressive day.
Sometimes I think we forget how good Darby is. He can be over-aggressive at times, but he also makes plays. He had critical INTs against the Giants and Raiders that helped the Eagles win those games. He almost sealed the Super Bowl with a pick. Jim Schwartz wants aggressive corners. Darby should be even better this year.
Staying in the secondary, Tre Sullivan stood out to me with a near pick-six by jumping a slant route. Then he logged a leaping pass breakup on a Sudfeld pass meant for Goedert, who was running a corner route. Maybe the Eagles don’t even need to bring Corey Graham back? If they do, Sullivan should at least be the fourth safety. He’s showing the ability to both cover and hit.
The Eagles need a #3 Safety. Sullivan could be that guy. He is well ahead of where he was last year, but he’s far from locking up a roster spot, let alone a key role. Sullivan proved he could be an impact hitter. He has to show he can cover and consistently tackle this time around.
Joe Callahan threaded the needle between two defenders with a bullet to Bryce Treggs for a touchdown during red zone drills. I swear someone on the Eagles coaching staff (Mike Groh?) yelled out “SMOKIN’ JOE!” in excitement. I’ve seen enough to believe that Callahan might be better than Matt McGloin was last year, which should make preseason football somewhat more watchable.
No real significance to this nugget. I just enjoyed it.
De’Vante Bausby continues to get reps with the ones. He has clearly emerged as the surprise guy of spring camp.
Sidney Jones sat out practice due to “soreness”. Make of that what you will. Still, it is good to see Bausby getting reps with the starters and handling himself well. I don’t want him to get the job for the heck of it. Bausby has played well this spring. The Eagles need depth. Jones isn’t 100 percent right now. Darby missed time last year. You can’t count on the starters staying out there all year. You need talent and good competition for spots. The Eagles have that.
I’ve been impressed by rookie DE Josh Sweat early on. We noted previously that rookie OT Jordan Mailata struggled mightily trying to block him during OTAs. That continued today, but I tried to ignore that aspect of it, as Mailata isn’t going to block many players in this camp, seeing as he’s just learning the sport. Results aside, Sweat’s get-off at the snap is explosive.
Dave Spadaro has been mentioning that Sweat’s knee doesn’t look 100 percent to him. Jimmy is impressed by what he sees. The real test will be how Sweat plays in pads and when O-linemen can really be physical with him. He also needs to show he can handle the amount of practice reps players get in TC. That wear and tear will give us an idea of whether Sweat is a real possibility for this roster.
You know the coaches are going to fall in love with his explosiveness. If Sweat can show anything this summer, the coaches may not want him on IR.
Recent free agent signing Markus Wheaton made more than a handful of catches today. The signing of Wheaton reminds me a little of when the Eagles brought in guys like Reuben Randle, Chris Givens, and Dorial Green-Beckham, in that those guys each had some level of previous success with their old teams before joining the Eagles. To be clear, I’m certainly not comparing Wheaton’s intelligence to Randle or DGB.
The difference between Wheaton and Randle or DGB is that Randle and DGB got a whole lot of attention because the Eagles didn’t have jack squat at receiver. Because the Eagles actually have some nice pieces now at wide receiver, Wheaton is more of an afterthought, as opposed to player who is being projected to start out of sheer necessity. Randle and DGB figured they were both locks to make the roster (Randle never made the 53), while Wheaton is not guaranteed a roster spot at all.
Wheaton drew praise from multiple people. Jimmy actually wrote quite a bit more on him. Go read his piece for the full story.
Wheaton has NFL talent and experience. The Eagles were lucky to get him. Even if Wheaton doesn’t pan out, he should be great for practice. Young corners like Rasul Douglas or Avonte Maddox are going to learn more going up against Wheaton than if they were battling some UDFA with a good Pro Day. Wheaton has a legit chance to make the Eagles roster.
1:39 p.m. – The offense jumps early as a remix of “The Middle” blares on the speakers. Steven Means appears to enjoy both the false start and the song, dancing in celebration. No one likes practice more than Steven Means.
That’s a great note on Means. Guys that practice with energy are valuable. You need them to keep things interesting and competitive.
1:42 p.m. – Wentz and Alshon Jeffery play catch to the side. Ronald Darby gets matched up with Wallace and makes a great play to break up a pass on a deep post. Darby seemed to have a really good practice today. Later during the drill, safety Tre Sullivan breaks up a Foles pass over the middle. Sullivan has flashed at times and has a shot to earn one of the depth roster spots.
Wentz jumps in and completes an out to Markus Wheaton. Nate Sudfeld shows excellent touch on a corner route to Dallas Goedert.
In the red zone, Rodney McLeod intercepts Wentz, but Wentz bounces back with a laser to Agholor that somehow gets by Darby.
Wheaton with another catch — this one a touchdown from Sudfeld. I thought this was the best Wheaton has looked during the spring.
More praise for Wheaton and Sullivan. It is important that players like that stood out to everyone. When one reporter gets excited about a player, that can be dangerous. You never know if he is seeing something real or overreacting. When multiple guys praise a player, that’s legit.
It is also encouraging to read about Sudfeld making good throws. The pressure is on him and it is imperative that he play well this summer.
Wide receivers run corner routes. A coach instructs them to run vertical to 12 yards and then break outside at an angle.
I am convinced that if we judged quarterbacks solely on their ability to throw corner routes, we’d be able to tell who’s good and who’s not.
Sheil might be onto something. Mark Sanchez was terrible at corner routes, which drove me nuts. He left play after play on the field due to errant throws.
- Here’s a running diary, of sorts, on the first units during team and 7 on 7 drills: Personnel was essentially the same as it was during OTAs, with the lone exception of slot cornerback. De’Vante Bausby returned to the first team with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby on the outside. Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill continued to get the bulk of reps at outside linebacker. Bradham was in the middle with Hicks limited. Quarterback Nick Foles hit Agholor early on with a seam pass against a zone defense. Safety Malcolm Jenkins looked around as if someone missed his assignment. Bradham blitzed up the “A” gap and “sacked” Foles. Running back Corey Clement took a handoff and cut outside, but Grugier-Hill was there and tagged him down. Receiver Mack Hollins dropped a pass during 7 on 7s. Foles tried to squeeze a deep toss to receiver Mike Wallace, but Darby and McLeod converged to break up the pass. Tight end Zach Ertz pulled in a contested pass. Agholor took advantage of a mismatch and got behind Bradham. Foles’ pass was underthrown, but his receiver was so open that it didn’t matter. Wendell Smallwood got up field on a screen. Center Jason Kelce led the way and knocked Darby (unintentionally, I presume) to the ground.
Bradham at MLB. That makes sense. He knows the defense and has the ability to play in there. The Eagles have athletes for OLB in KGH, Gerry and Nelson. It is impressive that KGH continues to make plays and get noticed at practice.
- The second unit: On the first team drill, Bennett jumped offsides. Over the previous five seasons, he was the NFL’s most penalized player. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld later threw behind tight end Dallas Goedert and safety Tre Sullivan was there to knock the ball away. Receiver Markus Wheaton toasted rookie corner Avonte Maddox and strolled in for an easy “touchdown.” Wheaton was active all practice. Bennett dropped into coverage several times with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz obviously working on zone blitzes. Sudfeld was late to Goedert again, but he had some other strong tosses, once hooking up with receiver Greg Ward. Ward left Thursday’s practice after a scare, but as he predicted, he was back for minicamp.
I know zone blitzes can drive us nuts at times, but it is good go have the defensive coordinator mix things up at times. You just don’t want Michael Bennett or Brandon Graham back in coverage very often. And Jeff makes a key point. Bennett can be a penalty machine. Brace for that.
Darren Sproles wants everyone to know: He’s back. All the way back. Scoring touchdowns on punt returns back.
Back. Back. Back.
He played a limited role in Tuesday’s first day of mandatory minicamp at the NovaCare Complex, but only because the Eagles played it conservatively.
“It feels great to be back,” Sproles said after practice. “The knee is feeling great. The whole offseason I’ve been rehabbing, working out, pretty much doing my regular stuff.”
Sproles returned for 2018 after suffering a 2017-ending broken arm and torn ACL in the Week 3 victory over the New York Giants. He didn’t want to end his glorious NFL career in such a manner, and his daughter wanted to see him play one more season.
So he signed with the Eagles following the 2018 draft and, well, he’s ready to go. When asked if he thinks the start of Training Camp is a reasonable time to be “full go,” Sproles shook his head and was emphatic with his response.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah,” he said. “Really, if they let me go full go now, I could. They’re just holding me back a little bit.” – DS
Sproles isn’t wearing a brace and multiple people talked about how spry he looked. That is great to hear. He can help the offense and be a big boost to the STs.
It was good to see Donnel Pumphrey in action after he was sidelined during the recent OTAs. He caught the ball well and looked fluid in his cuts. It’s a logjam at running back behind Ajayi, Sproles, and Corey Clement with Wendell Smallwood and Matt Jones battling for roster spots.
I thought Darby was excellent in coverage on Tuesday. He blanketed Mike Wallace deep down the seam on a rep in a 7-on-7 drill and broke up the pass. In another 7-on-7 rep, he prevented Nick Foles from going deep with tight defense.
The red zone touchdown from Wentz wasn’t the only nice ball caught by Agholor on the day. During a team drill, he lined farthest inside of three receivers to the left of the formation. Foles recognized that Agholor had the jump early and aired it out for the completion. – CM
Huge offseason for Pumphrey. He missed time last week so it is good he’s back on the field.
And it is great that Nelson Agholor is playing well. He could have let up after last year, but seems focused and still hungry. He could have an even better season in 2018.